Fauci says all indications suggest omicron is less severe than delta, but warns against complacency

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  • Dr. Anthony Fauci said preliminary studies suggest that the Omicron type, while highly transmitted, causes less severe disease than the deadly Delta strain of the coronavirus.
  • “All signs point to the less seriousness of O’Micron versus Delta,” said Fauci, President Joe Biden’s top health adviser.
  • But “we shouldn’t be complacent,” he said, because the “extremely high volume” of omicron cases could still overwhelm some health care systems.

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Dr. Anthony Fauci said on Wednesday that early studies suggest that the Omicron type, while highly transmitted, causes less severe disease than the deadly Delta strain of the coronavirus.

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“All signs point to a lesser severity of Omicron versus Delta,” said Fauci, top health adviser to President Joe Biden and director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, during a White House press briefing on COVID.

“The data is encouraging, but still preliminary in many respects,” Fauci said.

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But “we shouldn’t be complacent,” he said, because the “extremely high volume” of omicron cases could still overwhelm some health care systems, even if the new version results in fewer hospitalizations on average.

“The risk of serious disease from any circulating variant, including Omicron, is much higher for people who are not vaccinated,” Fauci said. “And so, adults and children who are eligible get vaccinated, and those vaccinated are encouraged if they are eligible.”

Fauci’s analysis came as cases of Covid, hit by Omicron’s rapid spread, hit record highs in several countries, including US hospitals, rising, but not with the same pace as new cases. However, hospitalization usually takes several days for new infections.

“The pattern and disparity between cases and hospitalizations strongly suggest that the proportion of hospitalizations will be lower if the situation becomes more pronounced,” Fauci said.

Fauci said more children are becoming infected with Omicron. But he noted that “many children are hospitalized with covid, as opposed to covid,” with no final determination made about the severity of the variant in children.

Fauci said the Omicron variant also shows “a degree of immune evasion” from antibodies, including those induced by currently available vaccines. But booster shots “bring that level of protection back up to a level that’s guessing what it was before,” he said.

“So boosters are important for Omicron for our approach to be optimal,” Fauci said.

He then highlighted some recent data collected from South Africa, the United Kingdom and the US, all of which suggested a lower risk of hospitalization or death from Omicron than from other waves of COVID-19.

Fauci said the South African study also showed lower admissions to intensive care units, fewer patients requiring supplemental oxygen and shorter hospital stays for omicron cases versus infections from prior waves of the virus.

a study by UK Health Protection AgencyMeanwhile, the risk of hospital admission for an Omicron infection is about 40% of the risk posed by the delta variant, Fauci said.

data from another study Organized by Imperial College London “There is an indication of an overall significant reduction in the risk of hospitalization for Omicron compared to Delta,” Fauci said.

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